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mick

SKEW BRIDGE - Attic Layout

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I've decided it's time to put some stone down and so I've started with a short section just this side of the tunnel using Gaugemaster brown granite ballast. I prefer the feel of real stone as opposed to the lightweight stuff from Woodland Scenics. I've still got a quantity of the Gaugemaster grey ballast that I've been using outdoors but felt it was time for a change this time so it's been out with the diluted PVA with a drop or two of washing up liquid and I'm now waiting for it to dry, which may take some time given the temperature up in the attic right now.

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I've tried putting some of the grey down loosely in front of the embankment - it needs to be a bit dirtier along there before more vegetation is planted on top. The sidings may get the grey ballast.

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As I feared the PVA is taking longer than usual to dry but I've continued ballasting and plugged in the heater to help it all along a bit. I've now gone a little further than the crossover with the brown ballast (which looks more like rose pink doesn't it?) and also started on the sidings using the grey. They're going to need blending together where they meet between loop and sidings and I think a few small shrubby things in places will create a clear divide.

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The only problem with ballasting is that you can't set a train running while you work and unless it warms up a bit it might be a few more days before we see anything rounding that top curve. I would point out that the bottom edge of the above photo is about half-way  one-third of the way along the scenic side so there's still a fair bit to do (more than I previously thought!).

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Although the ballast still hasn't fully dried out I took the opportunity to send the Gypsum train through the tunnel in order to get a photo of a train over the newly ballasted track.

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I've had to order another 1.5kg of ballast as I've just about used the 1.5kg I originally purchased and I'm almost out of grey ballast for the sidings too. I really do need to keep a shopping list and order everything in one go as more lineside trunking needs adding to the list too. There's plenty for me to be getting on with in the meantime as I still need a lot more bushes and more trees making in order to continue working my way down towards the other end - where there's also a bridge that requires building. I've actually decided on a girder bridge but not on it's final outline just yet.

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I'm about halfway with ballasting the main lines and the loop now but awaiting some grey ballast to be able to continue the sidings area.

I've added some more trees and bushes along the scenic section, slowly working my way down towards the other end of the layout. The use of Seafoam for making the trees is well worth the effort involved and they look much more realistic than the cheap trees you can purchase. With a bit more care and attention they could be made into excellent examples but I'm just looking for quick and easy fillers. Here's a couple of photos of some trees and bushes I've recently added.

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And I'll add this next photo to show where I'm up to. The ballast continues to the bottom edge of the photo but I'm waiting for more lineside trunking to be able to fill in the blank spaces between the loop and mainline. There's still a fair bit of the siding to do but the embankment to the left is now coming along nicely. I could really do with getting some better lighting to illuminate the scenic section as I only have a single LED spotlight at the moment which is great for the areas it reaches but it's very limited coverage.

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Well I cannot see where more care would produce better trees. You have a good mix of healthy looking lush trees, and poor runty sparse ones. That is exactly how nature is. Your "picture" looks damned good to me.

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56 minutes ago, roddy said:

Well I cannot see where more care would produce better trees...

I've seen them done on YouTube Roddy and they spend time thickening the trunks with air dried clay before painting them once they've decided which type of tree they want to make. They also straighten the cuttings in hot water because most of them have a slight curvature. They can be made extremely realistic but as I said I'm happy just to trim them and coat them in some type of scatter without any idea whatsoever what type of tree it's meant to be although I think I've got the knack of creating pine trees.

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11 hours ago, mick said:

I've seen them done on YouTube Roddy and they spend time thickening the trunks with air dried clay before painting them once they've decided which type of tree they want to make. They also straighten the cuttings in hot water because most of them have a slight curvature. They can be made extremely realistic but as I said I'm happy just to trim them and coat them in some type of scatter without any idea whatsoever what type of tree it's meant to be although I think I've got the knack of creating pine trees.

But you are a model railwayman looking for a degree of realism in your running, not a model arborealist (Is that even a word?) I stand by my woeds that I have never seen an are of woodland where every one is a fine specimen.

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Mick, it's looking brilliant.

On the subject of trees. What I never see modelled are trees with their trunks covered in ivy. As I look out of my window all the trees I can see have thick green bushy trunks. 

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5 hours ago, chris said:

Mick, it's looking brilliant.

On the subject of trees. What I never see modelled are trees with their trunks covered in ivy. As I look out of my window all the trees I can see have thick green bushy trunks. 

Thanks Chris. All the time I've been making the trees I've been mindful to try not to get scatter material on the trunks and where I have done I've managed to clean it off. Not sure exactly why I've been doing that other than that's what I saw the guy doing on the YouTube videos I watched. Perhaps if I left it on it would resemble ivy? I don't fancy going back over any of the trees I've already made now that they're planted in position but maybe I can have a go with a future attempt using some of the polyfibres I have.

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Doesn't ballasting take a long time! I don't dislike it, in fact I quite enjoy doing it but I just keep thinking of all the other things I could be doing with the time it takes.

Bit by bit I'm getting there and after laying another batch of lineside trunking it's enabled me to progress with the ballasting of the main lines and loop towards what will become the bridge end of the layout. Hopefully the following photos will show you where I'm at and what remains to be done.

Firstly there's a general view along the scenic section with a substantial part of the ballasting complete and that in the sidings awaiting the application of PVA glue.

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Now here's the same view but taken from the point I have reached with the mainline ballasting - and you'll see I've run out of lineside trunking once again. Notice also how little I've done with the scenics at this end. I've also purposely not taken too much care in getting the roads in the sidings straight.

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Turning the camera around shows how much, or how little, I still have to do.

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I didn't expect having this done today but I've now got lighting above the entire scenic side of the layout using four 36w LED battens attached to angled wooden blocks so that light is directed onto the layout. They make a massive difference although the phone camera compensates for the additional brightness so it isn't as apparent in photos.

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In this next photo the main attic lights are switched off and the only lighting is from the LED battens above the layout.

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The lights are each 4 feet long and are 'tubeless' so when they go they've gone and will need replacing, although they have a claimed lifespan of 25,000 hours. Very easy to install as they come pre-wired, you don't have to open them up, and there's no earth connection required.

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Hi Mick,

I have just fitted a 5 metre roll of these into my campervan. What a light they give, and at £6 for 5 metres, good value. They are 12 volts, but with many listings you can get the 240 volt transformer to fit them into kitchens or bathrooms. I am delighted with them, and again, only the two wires.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/5-20M-Waterproof-3528-5050-300-LED-Strip-Lights-DIY-Cool-White-TV-Ribbon-Kitchen/183749322075?hash=item2ac850255b:m:mzy-LwbQUfziZUqVqJ62S4w

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17 hours ago, roddy said:

...I have just fitted a 5 metre roll of these into my campervan....

I purchased a 5 metre roll of LED's a few years ago and some of my earlier photos of the attic layout probably show them above the end scenic section. I had hoped to use them there but felt they didn't give me the light intensity I wanted. Granted since that time they've no doubt come on a good deal and they're now advertised as hi-intensity so I assume they're much brighter than older versions. In addition I see they're now available in much longer lengths which would allow more than a single line of LED's over the layout. I still need lights for that small end section so it's worth considering if I don't purchase another LED batten. Thanks Roddy.

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Fitting the LED batten lights has made a huge difference to how the layout now appears - I can't tell you how much better it is. Suddenly all the work I've been doing over the past few weeks can be clearly seen and the even distribution of light means it really stands out with only minimal shadows thrown against the backscene. If I've made a big difference over recent weeks then the lighting has done the same in just a few hours.

Although most of the construction on Skew Bridge has been done in the past year or so it's easy to forget that my plans for an attic layout were first started in 2015 before there was even any flooring down in the attic and the whole central area was taken up by cold water storage tanks, hot water cylinders, and central heating expansion tanks. I've managed to add a few photos to the following video which shows some early progress but mainly more recent construction followed by some trains in operation under the lights today.

Due to ongoing 'engineering works' in Skew Bridge sidings (that's ballasting) there's been an acute lack of storage space resulting in 60048 and its train of steel coils being double-stacked in the down loop behind the auto-ballasters. Here 60048 can be seen waiting for the right away - though it might be some time coming yet. Notice the split pin on the embankment holding the newly planted tree in position while the PVA glue sets.

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Edited by mick
To add photo
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Have to say what amazing progress you have made in a short amount of time l am extremely jealous. 

I can only assume your wife has taken away the loft ladder and refuses to let you down until it's finished!

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3 hours ago, jimbob said:

...I can only assume your wife has taken away the loft ladder and refuses to let you down until it's finished!

Oh, she doesn't want me to ever finish it Jim, she's just quite happy that I'm up there and out of her way from morning until night.

3 hours ago, jimbob said:

Have to say what amazing progress you have made in a short amount of time l am extremely jealous....

Thanks Jim. It seems to have all come together in just a few months but I remember back in 2015 looking at the state of the attic and wondering how on earth anyone could ever build a railway up there. To begin with there wasn't even a floor to stand on, only the rafters. By the time I'd fitted some flooring and made a start on the first baseboard I'd had enough - there was just too much work that needed doing. It was cold, draughty, and dirty and I was using a bulb in a lamp holder wired to the end of an extension lead as the sole means of illumination. I thought the only way I could ever have a railway in the attic would be by having the loft professionally converted but I couldn't really justify the cost of that. Come 2016 I'd relinquished all hope of ever having an attic railway but I look at it now and it's difficult to comprehend how it's got to this stage when I'd only really restarted work in the latter part of last year. I'd made my last post in April 2016 and done nothing more with it until October 2019. I suppose it all started to come together once I'd started insulating the roof with the aluminium foil and added backscene boards because it created a 'space' rather than it being one big void. Suddenly the cold draughty feeling had gone, it was cleaner, and with a couple of striplights in the apex of the roof it was bright and welcoming.

If there's anyone out there facing the same daunting challenges I faced back in 2015 then I hope it just goes to show what can be done.

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I would love to use my loft space. There is a huge area up there. Cold dark and dirty pretty much as you describe. I could add a Velux window at the rear of the house with no questions asked or permissions needed, Big problem is that the floor joists were only put in to support the ceiling below, and are nothing more than 3"x2". They need to be 4x2 absolute minimum and 6x2 ideally. That is a lot of faffing about before even starting. The layout of my house means that I could take a proper staircase from the cupboard in the main bedroom, into the attic. What a space with easy access that would be. I don't even have your modern trusses to work in between for my space. Floor to floor uninterupted from front wall to back wall. Headroom becomes an issue obviously,  but no trusses really opens the space.

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That's a shame about the joists Roddy - reinforcing them would mean a lot of work and additional expense I imagine. It's hard to justify that when it's only for a model railway but people do that kind of thing - it all depends on how much you want it.

All I've managed today is to plant another 3 or 4 trees and add a bit of ground cover. I'm now out of suitable pieces of Seafoam for making further trees although there's plenty of bits left over for making small bushes. I gave the tracks a good clean along the scenic section where I'd been spraying water during gluing down the ballast and then filled up the three sidings with MGR wagons, which is what they are intended for.

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It's easy to get carried away with working on the layout at the expense of all the other daily tasks that you need to do and so I've been trying to get myself into a routine of not going up into the attic until after lunch when hopefully I've had time to do everything else. The trouble is, tasks like ballasting the track takes so long that those few hours in the afternoon just fly by and you don't really feel like you've done much at all. Anyway, the ballasting needed doing and so that's how my afternoon went.

There was the remainder of the sidings to ballast as well as the main lines and down loop up to the location of my proposed bridge. I'd stored 3 sets of MGR's in the sidings but fortunately the wagons were clear of the unballasted section and I only had to move a couple of loco's out of the way and onto the main line in order to start work.

The afternoon over and ballasting complete I really felt like I needed to do something else so that there was more to show for a days work and so I made a few more trees and planted them along the embankment working down towards the bridge area. As you'll see from the following photo I'm now about two-thirds of the way down the embankment which in total length is more than the full sets of stabled MGR's when you take the top corner section into account. Tomorrow I want to add the bushes and undergrowth.

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With regards the track ballasting, it's now pretty much all done, as seen below, apart from touching up and filling in here and there and you'll see there's not a lot of rear embankment to complete now either.

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The next photo is similar to the first but from a higher viewpoint looking back down along the layout. It shows the difference between the bare tree embankment in the foreground and that with added bushes and things in the distance.

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Lastly, and apologies for the front of the loco not being in focus, I took this one with my phone camera just because, with the LED lights now on the layout, I can do so without having to move any lights around and it also shows the detail along the embankment and the ballasted track. The dummy point motors aren't fitted yet and the near one is to go on the cess side of the line when I get round to it but it gives a good view of the Peco finescale code 75 track which looks realistic enough and certainly doesn't appear overscale.

I was apprehensive about leaving the holes in the plaster bandage and almost considered painting over them with filler but now I'm glad I left them as they add additional texture to the embankment. As I progressed I did begin to fill in the holes more and more but there are still plenty of places where I didn't manage it.

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